Friday, May 20, 2011
Old School Hermes: 24, Faubourg
24, Faubourg is creamy and ornate, without feeling particularly heavy to me. In fact, the top notes are practically sunny. It resembles another ornate fragrance, Ysatis, in certain respects, characterized by a rich floral accord with deep amber tones, but lacks the dusty incense quality of Ysatis, feeling somehow quieter, though neither could be said to whisper, exactly. Ysatis dates back to 1984, preceding 24, Faubourg by nearly a decade, and it's interesting to see how little the cultural idea of opulence they represent changed in the intervening years, especially when you look at how drastically these fragrances differ from Ellena's fairly recent work for Hermes. Faubourg is not a particularly large leap from 1984's Parfum d'Hermes (now Hermes Rouge), speaking much the same language, if using different verbs.
Like Rouge, 24, Faubourg is a chypre. The listed notes are bergamot, orange, peach, hyacinth, tiare flower, orange flower, jasmine, orris, sandalwood, patchouli, amber, and vanilla, according to osmoz.com.
I have two versions, one of which is the original edt, the other of which is a more recent eau de parfum. There is very little difference between the two, except in respects to longevity and projection. For me, the edp stays a little closer to the skin but is richer and creamier. The edt isn't exactly lighter, and I can smell more of the vanilla and patchouli. It doesn't last quite as well as the edp, but it's hard to say exactly, as neither concentration is anything close to a lightweight and the edt projects a little more, giving it the illusion of more mileage.
24, Faubourg is the very best of Roucel's work, and seems to have a clarity and a resolve that some of his more contemporary fragrances sometimes lack. It's a statement, a declarative thing, compared to something like Dans tes Bras, a fragrance Roucel created for the Frederic Malle line. Dans tes Bras is no less forceful, but it feels muddled and morose by comparison to Faubourg, as if Roucel were struggling a bit to adapt his style to changing times. Dans tes Bras makes a valiant effort to hold onto the old school opulence of Ysatis and Faubourg but ultimately mumbles a little incoherently, insecure in its point of view.
Faubourg is a lot more confident in outlook and execution, I think. It sits very comfortably within the range of chypres from the eighties and nineties. It knows it belongs there, and that "there" is a perfectly good, even enviable place to be. It's rich and intense and feels like a coat you've worn for years and wouldn't dream of giving away, knowing they don't make it anymore and nothing new will ever feel so wonderfully lived in. I suppose the biggest difference between Faubourg's kind of thing and Hermes by way of Ellena these days is the sense I get from the Ellena fragrances that they are a little like trying to keep warm in a still-wet watercolor.